Could the Qualifying Offer Help the Royals Keep Ervin Santana?


Sep 20, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher Ervin Santana (54) delivers a pitch against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Just over a year ago, Ervin Santana and $1million were acquired from the Los Angeles Angles for Brandon Sisk. At the time, it was felt that this was a solid move…for the Angels. Santana was coming off a rough 2012 season that saw him go 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA, giving up a league leading 39 home runs. Perhaps even more alarming was how Santana’s walk rate increased while his strikeout rate dropped to their lowest since 2007. It may have been fair to wonder if Santana had anything left.

What a difference a year made. Santana resurrected his career with the Royals, and became one of the top targets at the trade deadline. Now, coming off a 9-10 season with a 3.24 ERA and a strikeout to walk rate over three,  Santana is considered one of the top targets in the pitching market. At this point, Santana is expected to earn a five year, $75million contract. Naturally, the Royals have made a qualifying offer to Santana, assuring themselves of a compensatory pick should Santana leave via free agency.

Yet, that qualifying offer may work in the Royals favor. Should Santana decline the offer, which seems likely, he may not find the same market that he would have otherwise. Teams last season appeared to shy away from free agents that had compensatory picks attached, leaving players such as Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse to sign late in the offseason.

In fact, Lohse may be the best case scenario for the Royals. Although Santana is entering free agency a couple of years younger than Lohse was last year, Lohse had come off a two year stretch where he had produced a 30-11 record and a 3.11 ERA. Yet, Lohse had to wait until just before Opening Day to receive a three year, $33million contract.

While the Royals may be loathe to extend themselves beyond their budget from 2013, should Santana find himself in the same situation that Lohse was in last season, it may be possible to bring him back. Considering how well Santana pitched last season, any potential scenario that could help the Royals retain his services is a bonus.

Ervin Santana was a much bigger part of the Royals turnaround last season than even they likely expected. Now, by extending the qualifying offer, the Royals may not only have a chance to keep Santana, but they may even be able to get a bit of a discount.